“A’Driane, what is it that you fear the most? If you could name one fear that you have, right now, that brought you here, what would that be? Can you name it?”
In my mind I screamed “SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!” at the thoughts that are never quiet and always racing these days. I wanted to answer the question honestly and give my full attention to it, but I needed at least 30 seconds of silence in my brain to accomplish that. Surprisingly my rambunctious, bouncing thoughts obeyed long enough for me to formulate an answer:
“My fear?” I swallowed slowly, feeling my mouth going dry & sweat trickling down the back of my legs, making my decision to wear jeans a regrettable one. “Fear….I’m scared that I’m just going to check out, you know, mentally. You know, just become this zombie who functions on the surface, but (more swallowing & sweating) who isn’t emotionally available for my kids or able to nurture them. I’m just scared that I’m going to give up on life.”
Tears, a flood of them, started making their way down my face as I looked at the social worker/psychologist. Through blurry eyes I could see his gaze was fixed on mine even though his hands were scribbling notes at a furious rate. On my lap he placed a box of tissues.
“Give up on life…Do you think about hurting yourself or have you made any plans to hurt yourself?”
“It’s crossed my mind, but not because I don’t want to live. I want to live…I just….I just need relief, need a break from this….this constant wackiness, this feeling like I’m losing my grip, this fine one minute, a total wreck the next existence I’ve been living. I’m tired. So no, I haven’t made any plans to hurt myself, and besides I wouldn’t do that any way-I couldn’t do that to my kids. I have to take care of them . I want to take care of them. And myself. And enjoy my life….but….I can’t function like this anymore. I can’t start school next month like this-I won’t make it.”
More notes. More questions. Some advice. More notes. More questions. A squeeze of my hand and a gaze that told me he got “it”. Minutes later I had an appointment set up with the doctor who would be my new psychiatrist & was in another room, trying to keep Alex calm while the intake psychiatrist asked me another round of questions.
“Do your thoughts race?” OMG yes. Constantly. All the time. Nonstop. Sometimes I can’t even pray because my mind is all over the place, in so many different directions, my concentration really sucks sometimes.
“Do you find yourself talking faster than usual?” Yes. I am, after all trying to keep up with the frantic pace of my thoughts.
“Do you ever have days where you feel super energetic, full of ideas & feel more impulsive than usual?” Yea I have like 1-2 days where I’m ripping & running, on the go, being productive, knocking out things I have to do for work, school, home, etc & then I’ll have 1-2 days after that where I don’t want to do anything at all. Like. NOTHING. Feel totally demotivated, the only thing I can do is just take care of the kids-like feed them, naps, you know, mama stuff. If I didn’t have any kids, I’d be in the bed during those times, sleeping, zombied out. Impulsive? I pay my bills and I don’t go on shopping sprees, but I do find it hard alot of times to resist the urge to buy things. Like, Target & Wal-Mart can be a problem, even if I’m buying stuff I actually need. I’ve gone overboard sometimes, definitely.
Silence. Some more questions, Alex goes into toddler meltdown mode, I break out into more sweats, I answer the psych’s questions. Silence. Then….his initial diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder 2 triggered by my pregnancy, depression & anxiety following said pregnancy & taking Zoloft, which it turns out is something he said is pretty common these days. Given my childhood & history of depression, he said I most likely already had the uh, “bipolar biology” (his words)-me being in my 20’s and battling PPD/PPA just “brought it out.”
The anger. irritability. moods swinging without even given a reason to. the anxiety. the lack of focus & concentration. the depression. the “I just don’t feel like myself” feelings. the ” I was just laughing, why I do I want to cry” sensation. You mean I’m not crazy? Like I feel like I am, but I’m not? I’m not losing my mind? This is treatable? I can feel “normal” again? I can get off this rollercoaster & be able to cope with life again? Wow.
As he answered my questions & discussed treatment options & next steps all I could feel was relief-sweeping me over like a wave. And then more tears. But this time, instead of tears of desperation, they released the exhale I was slowly letting out.
I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of going to the VA hospital’s behavioral/mental health clinic before this week. I guess I just thought I wasn’t doing enough to manage on my own. I guess I thought it might take too much to get an appointment. And what would I do with the kids? How would I get over there, cause I hate driving in Philly? I guess I thought I wasn’t being strong enough, or “Christian” enough, or something along those lines. I guess I thought I was imagining it all, even though my instincts & my body were telling me I wasn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t utilize this resource before today, but I’m glad I put myself on the 42 bus & went, Brennan at home with a friend, & Alex Moby-wrapped to my body. I’m glad I didn’t lose my nerve & leave when I walked the halls or spoke to the receptionist. I’m glad I didn’t tell anyone about it or talk myself out of it, like I have other treatment options. I just went. And the relief I’m feeling knowing I’m doing something to improve my quality of life & mental health (as well as that of my kids) is my reward.
I start this new mood stabilizer tonight. I know meds aren’t a cure, but the psych said it should bring me the relief I need so I can do things that ARE a cure-like self-care, exercise, read, spending time with my boys without being distracted, PRAY…..you know, things that make me ME. I see my new psych in two weeks & meet my therapist then too.
My goal: To be in a much better space mentally & emotionally by the time the semester starts. With all of this in place & God’s help-I know it can happen ;)
Also, It pays to serve your country. Thank you VA.